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Consumers Energy first Michigan utility to test drone

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Consumers Energy launched an unmanned aerial vehicle for the first time yesterday, becoming the first energy company in Michigan to receive approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to test the machine. 

UAVs, commonly known as drones, are aircraft that fly without a human pilot. 

Consumers spokesman Terry DeDoes says the company is assessing whether the UAV can be used to better serve its customers. Test runs of the drone are limited to Jackson, Mason and Tuscola counties. 

"We think that the technology may help feed our restoration efforts following a storm to get customers' electric service restored sooner," DeDoes said. 

DeDoes says the UAV could be used to inspect equipment such as wind tribunes and electric lines.  

U.S. Senator Gary Peters from Michigan, who serves on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that oversees the FAA, said in a prepared statement that he hopes more Michigan companies can use UAVs. 

“I applaud Consumers Energy for seizing the opportunity to explore innovative and efficient ways to serve Michigan residents,” Peters said. “In the Senate, I am working with my colleagues to ensure more Michigan businesses can take advantage of the benefits of UAV’s so we can integrate these technologies into our airspace in a safe manner.”

Three other energy companies in the United States have been approved by the FAA to fly UAVs.

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